“Dirt” – Spider Heart

Just discovered this incredible new band today, Spider Heart from San Francisco.  They could best be described as a cross between early Wire, the Stooges, Jane’s Addiction, Black Sabbath, and the Nymphs.  But even that description falls far short.  There are few bands that can be described as true originals and Spider Heart is one of them.   Lead singer May Black has been described as a cross between Iggy Pop and Janis Joplin and damn if that’s not an accurate assessment.  Except I would also throw Inger Lorre, Courtney Love, and Darby Crash into that mix.  This is authentically dangerous and thrilling music and if you like what you hear, do yourself a favor and check out their awesome EP “Dirt” available on iTunes and Google Play.  And of course, you can also enjoy them on Dave’s Strange Radio!

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“I Should Have Known Better” – Wire

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There’s a consistent theme running through the first three albums by Wire. It’s a sense that you’re in a situation that’s fundamentally f–ked-up and you’re suddenly realizing that there’s no escape … that you’re being sucked into some inevitable horrific conclusion. The terror isn’t always explicitly spelled out, but it sounds like the worst “Oh s-t!” moment of your life.

This particular song is the lead-off track from their third album, 1979’s “154,” the least heralded of their first three albums, but one that has grown on me tremendously over the years. As much as I revere “Chairs Missing” (the second one), “154” feels colder, more despairing. My favorite post-punk band, even besting Public Image Ltd. and Joy Division.

“Practice Makes Perfect” – Wire

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The opening track of Wire’s incredible second album “Chairs Missing” from 1978. This is a song about a woman becoming a prostitute for the first time, with all the agony and paranoia a group of young English men can muster when you sound like graduate students trying to do their best Black Sabbath – Brian Eno homage. If what I described doesn’t sound like the coolest sound in the world, you don’t know what it’s like to live in my head. Maybe that’s a good thing. Who knows? All I know is that “Chairs Missing” has been one of my all-time favorite albums for the last 20+ years, when I came across a cassette of this album for $4.00 at a used record store in 1990 and it completely blew my gaskets.

“The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever” by Alan Sepinwall

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Since the late 1990s, it’s now a cliche to point out that television is more groundbreaking and artistically challenging than motion pictures.  Yes, we do get the occasional artistically challenging film (“Black Swan”), but the most artistically challenging subject matter is now on networks such as HBO, AMC, Showtime, etc.  Hollywood is more interested in churning out superhero sequels and conservative rom-coms than lead characters who are flawed.

“The Revolution Must Be Televised” by Alan Sepinwall is the first book to analyze these groundbreaking television shows and their impact on culture.  Sepinwall starts with the HBO show “Oz” and then devotes extensive analysis to shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Shield,” “The Wire,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad” … among other shows.   If you’re a fan of any of these shows, this book is a feast of behind-the-scenes details and cultural analyses.   The fact that it’s taken this long to see a book that chronicles and celebrates the late 1990s – new Milenium of artistically audacious series TV is proof enough that the medium is still not taken as seriously as film, which has become way more conservative than anyone could have ever imagined.

One criticism I have of Sepinwall’s book is the lack of focus on comedy.   With “Sex and the City,” “Arrested Development,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Louis” in the bloodstream, you wonder why he didn’t give a token shout-out to these revolutionary shows.   But what’s there in this book is very, very good.  And if you’re a fan of any of these shows … or just a fan of quality drama … this book is a must.

“Strange” – Wire / “Strange” – R.E.M.

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First up is the grinding, distortion-heavy,machine-like anthem of paranoia “Strange” by Wire, from their 1977 debut “Pink Flag.” As classic as this song is, the more upbeat, rollicking, garage band cover by R.E.M. from 1987’s “Document” album is probably better known. I can’t say which one I like better. I love how positively creepy and dreadful the original is, yet the R.E.M. version is one of their best, hardest rocking tunes. You decide.

“Mercy” – Wire

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The sound of paranoia and imminent dread … Kind of what Black Sabbath would’ve sounded like had they gone to grad school and worried about writing their theses … OK, it’s actually better than that.  I always thought this would be great to use in a film where the lead character gradually realizes they are in a world of s–t they can’t get out of.